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Pay gap closing for in-house lawyers

Posted by: Laurence Simons 17/04/13

There are many factors taken into account when choosing a career path within law. Some legal graduates base their decision on whether or not their new office will have beanbag chairs and foosball tables, while others opt for the business with the plushest lobby-reception area and the biggest pot plants in the foyer.

However, the main motivating factor is traditionally salary, given that we live in a world where money is a defining factor in determining our quality of life and not a blissful socialist utopia where everyone is accorded a modicum of respect and dignity whatever their social status.

With this in mind, in-house lawyers will be gratified to learn that the pay gap traditionally existing between them and their counterparts in private practice has almost been bridged, meaning they too can drive expensive sports cars and feel the crippling existential ennui of the very wealthy.

According to Towers Watson's new legal salary report, base pay is still considerably higher in the private field, as it has always been. However, more generous bonus and employee benefits are found in the wider corporate environment, which makes the field considerably more competitive than it was in the past.

However, the gap between in-house and private practice starting salaries remains for newly qualified lawyers and trainees.

Phillip Hough, senior consultant in Tower's Watson's data services division, pointed out that remuneration for graduate lawyers remains impressively high compared to the levels seen in many other sectors, especially in the capital.

"Outside of London the rates are much lower. Affordability and cost control are still frequently used terms among the law firms so we do not expect these rates to increase in the short term," he added, noting that there is only so much you can spend on whippets, flat caps and bitter anyway.